Monday, May 02, 2005

Optimal Learning: PS2, Lying Down, Away from School

There are times when intelligent people state their case very clearly and yet they somehow miss the opportunity to draw the most obvious and useful conclusion from it. This can leave one with the desire to seize their attention by stepping in front of them, grabbing their wrists and shouting repeatedly and undecorously..."So? So? SOOO?

The Sunday Times had a similar effect on me this week. Individually, at least four of the articles should sign the death warrant for the notion that schools are a sensible place to learn. Put them all together, and it wouldn't just be the nail in that particular coffin. We'd be dancing on that grave.

Front Page: Couch Potatoes Sprout Bigger Brains watching TV,,2087-1592903,00.html

"Video games, phone cameras, iPods and television shows are teaching a generation how to engage in systems analysis, probability theory, pattern recognition and spatial geometry. They also improve attention span, memory and the ability to follow a narrative."

"IQ scores in developed nations have been steadily rising since 1943 at an annual rate of 0.31 points. (That amounts to 17 points since 1943). In the 1990s, scores accelerated at a rate of 0.36 points. Johnson (in his book, 'Everything Bad is Good for You', published this week in the States, argues exposure to new media may be responsible."


Then more on this idea on the front page of the Review:,,2092-1592248,00.html

"As Joe would put it: “I think playing games or messing about on the computer is much more challenging than watching TV or reading most books. If you are playing San Andreas [the latest in the controversial Grand Theft Auto series] you have to remember so much. It’s like learning to get around in a new city. And loads of games have puzzles and other challenges in them. It’s not just about shooting people.”

"Johnson dates the start of complex, multi-layered television to 1981 and the launch of the police drama Hill Street Blues, shown here on Channel 4. “Watch an episode of Hill Street Blues side by side with any major drama from the preceding decades — Starsky and Hutch, for instance — and the structural transformation will jump out at you.”

"Where once a couple of simple narrative threads sufficed, now there could be as many as 10 distinct strands to each show. In place of one or two stars, viewers were expected to relate to up to half a dozen major characters. In pilot screenings, brain-challenged audiences complained that the plot of Hill Street Blues was too complicated.

"Yet if one compares it to The Sopranos, the hit series about a New Jersey mob family that came two decades later, the differences are plain. “The Sopranos routinely follows a dozen distinct threads over the course of an episode, with more than 20 recurring characters,” Johnson notes. “And every single thread builds on events from previous episodes, and continues on through the rest of the season and beyond.”

So really, why go to school when all you really need are ready access to a computer, a TV and a number of different consoles?


For the next argument against schools, try:,,176-1592467,00.html

"RELAX! The figure prostrate in bed or on the sofa next to you this morning is not just slobbing out. Scientific research shows that lying down is the best way to think. Researchers now believe the cleverest way to think is while curled up in bed or on a sofa. Clinical tests have shown men and women can solve problems faster when lying down compared to when they are standing up or sitting.

"The research could do away with macho management meetings in the boardroom where everybody stands up. Modern businessmen may be taught people think better on their feet, but the research suggests that lying down can boost thinking speeds by 10%. Scientists have discovered that noradrenalin, a natural hormone produced in the brain by stress, interferes with brain cells and reduces people’s attention to detail and reasoning. When people stand up, it triggers a reaction in the brain which produces more of the hormone. But lying down decreases the concentration of noredrenalin in the brain and helps us to think more clearly."

But it isn't just business men who sit and stand. Does this physiology not apply to children? If it does, shouldn't we be doing away with school chairs and desks, and spending a lot of tax payers money buying in some classroom mattresses? Perhaps rather more cheaply, we could stick with our sofas, beds, baths, carpets and gardens that we already have somewhere else.


And just by way of showing how utterly hopeless and mendacious the whole school argument is, try:

School Boost ‘Tiny’ Despite New Millions,,2087-1592747,00.html

"EDUCATION standards have barely improved despite the massive injection of funds from Labour, a new independent study has found.

"Peter Tymms, professor of education at Durham University and one of the authors said: “I was absolutely staggered when I saw the figures. They beggar belief for the tiny little impact they have had.” The conclusions undermine Labour’s election claims to have brought about major improvements in schools since coming to power. They will add to accusations that the government is wasting billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.

“Hundreds of millions of pounds spread across hundreds of initiatives have been invested. One has to ask if the money could have been better spent.”

"The report, which expresses the personal views of Tymms, Robert Coe and Christine Merrell claims official figures “clearly exaggerate” the primary gains. Using independent tests, the authors estimate 58% of 11-year-old children achieved the level in English expected of their age group in 2004, not the 77% claimed by the government. In maths, 64% achieved grade 4 according to the independent tests, rather than the official 74%. Even by its own figures, the government’s primary school improvements are looking tarnished. In total, only two-thirds of 11-year-olds reached the required standards in both English and maths. The remaining one third, after six years’ primary schooling, cannot read, write and count properly."



1 comment:

Dion said...

Brilliant! I was already too hopping mad after just half the Sunday Times info to carry on with the rest, but it was worth the effort in your case.

Also explains why I've been so anxious about the leaves on the trees stopping my son's television from working.

You must send this off for publication.